BMW 1-series : First Drive
Big engine, little car – good start. Inline-six cylinder engine up front in the north-south direction coupled to rear wheel drive – things getting better. BMW and M badges, aggressive body-kit – bring it on! Seating for four, every-day practicality - a necessary evil, but for the BMW M135i, a small price to pay.
Those passing a first glance will possibly dismiss the body-kit and wheels as an accessory overload on a little slightly awkward looking German shopping trolley, but those big discs, twin exhausts and the engine note will suggest otherwise, particularly when it rapidly shrinks into the distance.
This then was what I was handling as I eased the deliciously blue-hued baby in BMW's portfolio on the outskirts of Munich and aimed it in the direction of Austria. Salzburg was the intended destination at the end of the day but before that we had the small business of tackling the Grosglockner Pass in the Austrian Alps, one of the greatest of Alpine passes and one which was, in the 1930s, a hallowed ground for Grand Prix cars to fight for supremacy and bragging rights.
It was inevitably Mercedes-Benz versus Auto Union with Alfa Romeo trying to pick up the scraps but in the sports car class we sometimes had the sight of the classic six-cylinder BMW 328s storming up the Grosglockner to wins in the production sports car class.
However that was in the past and getting back to the last month, the first thing to hit home was how composed the M135i was in making light work of the heavy morning traffic out of Munich. The brilliantly damped ride was the first detail to emerge and this from a small wheelbase machine which is an anomaly in today's mini-car front-wheel drive universe in that it has the perfect 50:50 weight distribution thanks to it being rear wheel drive.
It was always thought that a car with 320 Munich-bred thoroughbreds on call and bolstered by 450 Nm of twist force could have such a pliant low-speed ride set-up but there was even more madness in the 1-series method yet to pan out. Not only could we find the ride pliant but also the torsional stiffness of the monocoque was evident in the feel as she began to turn in, take in the cambered corners and thunder over the tramlines.